Naomi’s husband took her and their sons to a foreign land due to a famine in Israel. She had to leave her home, family, and everything she’d known. Eventually, her husband died. Then a son died. Then her other son died. When she returned to Israel, she couldn’t even see the blessing of her daughter-in-law because of her grief. In fact, she told them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” (Ruth 1:20) The older I get, the more I understand where Naomi was coming from and the less I judge her. (Note: I’m not validating her viewpoint; I’m just saying I understand why she felt this way.)
After losing my first husband, I was involved in a legal battle that drug on for years. During that time, I was constantly reminded of my husband’s death and the fact that he shouldn’t have died. My pain was always before me, and it was really difficult for those wounds to heal. Recently, I started a new chapter in life. I thought it would be a better, happier chapter. But God. He had other plans. Another loss. More pain. More tears. I confessed to God that I’m just so very tired of hardship. Maybe you’ve been there.
This brings me to my original question. How do I believe God is for me and really loves me when life hurts so much or for so long? The answer’s pretty simple really. We have to look no further than the cross. We are not alone in our suffering; Christ himself was well acquainted with suffering and grief. In the catechism questions my kids do, one of the questions is, “What kind of life did Christ live on earth?” The answer is, “A life of poverty and suffering.” He knows what it’s like to suffer, but he didn’t just live a life of suffering. He suffered in his death too, so that he could pay the price for our sins. When we look to the cross, we have a vivid reminder of how much God loves us.
How do we feel this truth though? How do we let it transfer from our minds to sink into our soul? First of all, we have to take every thought captive. We have to continually remind ourselves that God is for us and loves us because the enemy tries to tell us otherwise. The next thing we do is stay in the Word. We remind ourselves of the truth of Scripture. The final thing we do is pray. And we pray. And we pray. And we pray. We pray that the Lord would remind us of his love for us. We pray that he would give us comfort and peace when life is hard. We pray that he would help us to rely on his truth, not our emotions. Sweet friends, even when life is painful, God is for us and loves us with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3) We are never alone.
P.S. I was doing morning drop-off while I was writing this post in my head. It was lightly raining, and as I was turning, I saw a rainbow. It wasn’t really bright; just a faint splash of color against the gray sky. God gives us these beautiful and obvious reminders of his goodness; we just have to be open to seeing them.
It was a chapter that I never would’ve written for myself. The chapter in which I suddenly became a single mom and entered into a long season of indescribable grief and pain. The chapter where I shed more tears than I thought humanly possible. A chapter where I often found it difficult to see hope in the future and I wondered if things would ever get better. A chapter that lasted far too long.
However, even in the midst of my deep darkness, God never left my side. Psalm 139:9-12 says,
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with you.”
Even in those dark days, God’s light shone through. Sometimes, it was a moment where all of the kids were playing and getting along. Sometimes, it was the laughter of a child or an impromptu, unsolicited “I love you” from one of them. Sometimes, it was something life-altering.
Three years ago, I met an amazing man. He didn’t run away when he learned I had four kids. He didn’t run away when I kept struggling with depression. He didn’t run away when my kids were terrible or threw fits or were exhausting. Our dating relationship was unconventional to say the least. (But then again, when does dating a widow with kids ever look normal?) We got to know each other over the phone and at soccer practices and baseball games and ballet classes. We were able to take the kids to do fun things that I wouldn’t have been able to manage on my own. After a long journey, we were finally able to get married last month. I walked down the aisle to the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness. We had Lamentations 3:22-23 framed at our wedding. Don’t miss this – this profound declaration of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness is found in a book of mourning and lament. It’s in the dark seasons of our life where we can often see God’s faithfulness more clearly than in the seasons of abundance.
I don’t know what the Lord has in store for us, but I’m excited to see what the future holds. It’s a miracle to be loved again and to have someone to love and to have a partner in raising my kids to follow Christ. I pray that you find some hope and encouragement from my story. Life won’t be this hard forever. The place where you are now is not where you will stay. Our God is the God of hope and the God that will never ever leave you. He is the God of new beginnings.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
This is not a typical post, but one that I wanted to do for fun prior to the beginning of summer. I love reading, and I love reading to my kids. I keep hoping that someday, because of my avid reading, my kids will love to read. I have most definitely surrounded them with lots of good books. I have a read aloud time each day during homeschool with my littles. I read to all but my oldest at bedtime.
Starting a book collection doesn’t have to be costly. I buy my books at secondhand stores, garage sales, and at abebooks.com. Rarely, do I buy a new book. These links are provided so you can see the book and its synopsis. This is a random listing of some of our favorites. Happy Reading!
The Pigeon really needs a bath! Except, the Pigeon’s not so sure about that. Besides, he took a bath last month! Maybe. It’s going to take some serious convincing to try and get the Pigeon to take the plunge.
Today is a perfect day for Cat, Dog, Chickadee, and Squirrel.
Cat is lounging among the daffodils. Dog is sitting in the wading pool, deep in the cool water. Chickadee is eating fresh seed from the birdfeeder. Squirrel is munching on his very own corncob. Today is a perfect day in Bert’s backyard.
Until Bear comes along, that is. Bear crushes the daffodils, drinks the pool water, and happily gobbles up the birdseed and corncob.
Today was a perfect day for Cat, Dog, Chickadee, and Squirrel. Now, it’s just a perfect day for Bear.
Lane Smith uses perfect pacing and vibrant illustrations to emphasize the power of perspective in this hilarious picture book about the goings-on in Bert’s backyard.
We have this book and one other in the series! Each book contains famous paintings along with things that kids can touch, keeping children engaged. There is also a simple, rhyming text in each book. I love that it introduces kids to real art.
A young boy suddenly notices a big problem — his butt has a huge crack! So he sets off to find a new one. Will he choose an armor-plated butt? A rocket butt? A robot butt? Find out in this quirky tale of a tail, which features hilarious rhymes and delightful illustrations. Children and parents will love this book — no ifs, ands, or butts about it!
Note: this book is a little much since it does have drawings (obviously) of butt cracks and farts. Despite that, my younger kids think it’s hilarious. It’s probably not for everyone though.
Beloved for more than 30 years, this award-winning classic from Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury celebrates the joys of an afternoon outdoors with family.
We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one.
Will you come too? Join a father and his four young children as they cross a field of tall, wavy grass, wade through a deep, cold river, struggle through swampy mud, find their way through a big, dark forest, fight through a whirling snowstorm, and enter finally enter a narrow, gloomy cave. What will they find there? You’ll have to read on to find out!
For more than thirty years readers have been swishy swashing and splash sploshing through this award-winning favorite. Now fans of this timeless story from Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury can treasure and share this Classic Board Book edition that has an updated, colorized cover.
Designed to soothe children before bedtime while instilling an early appreciation for natural and cultural wonders, this delightful story features a multicultural group of people visiting waterfalls, glaciers, alpine lakes, the Rocky Mountains, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Ozark Mountains, the Sierra Nevadas, the Appalachian Mountains, volcanic Mount Saint Helen, and Mount Washington in New England. Guiding children through the passage of both a single day and the four seasons while saluting the iconic aspects of mountains, this board book also highlights the activities associated with such destinations, including skiing, hiking, camping, backpacking, fishing, and rock climbing.
Note: This is a series. We have at least one other. (Maybe the ocean/beach one?) I like that it can help the kids remember a special vacation, and it’s also calming because it says “Good night” over and over. I find this helpful with my youngest who is always difficult to calm down at bedtime.
From best-selling women’s author Angie Smith (I Will Carry You, Mended) comes this sweet children’s book about a stuffed animal named Audrey Bunny who fears her imperfections make her unworthy of a little girl’s love. She’ll learn the truth soon enough, and young readers will learn that everyone is special and wonderfully made by God.
For years, I have struggled with not feeling stable and secure anymore. It’s caused me to struggle with both anxiety and depression at times. I have struggled with the Lord even more though over the fact that he would take these things from my children. It was our desire for our children to have the security of growing up in a two-parent home. We wanted our kids to be shielded from the harsh realities of life when they were young. That just wasn’t part of God’s plan for them though.
I’ve just recently come to realize that I have been confusing safety with security. They are not synonymous. While my children lost the safety their father’s presence provided, they didn’t lose their security. Of course, it felt like they did. However, for those of us who love Christ, our future is eternally secure in the person of Jesus. What a valuable lesson we can teach our kids – that even when it doesn’t feel like it, their security has been paid for by the blood of Jesus on the cross. I recently attended a parenting seminar, and our pastor mentioned that while our children need security, they don’t need safety. God never promised us safe lives. In fact, he said quite the opposite. Jesus said in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” When their dad died, my children no longer had “safe” lives, but their future will always be secure in Christ.
Sweet friends, I wish I could hold your hands in mine and look into your eyes and tell you that it will be ok. It is so hard to face an uncertain future. The nights are most difficult when our thoughts catch up with us, and as sleep escapes us, we may worry about what the future does or doesn’t hold. However, I want to squeeze your hands reassuringly and tell you that whatever God has in store for you will be ok. We can rest in whatever He has for us because His plan is perfect, even when it doesn’t feel that way. Romans 8:28 says “and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” What a promise! It doesn’t say that “we think” or “we believe.” It says, “we know.” We can know and rest in the comfort of the promise that God will work even the darkest, most heart-wrenching times in our lives for good. The same is true for our children. He will take the pain they have experienced and use it for good. We cannot see it now, but just think of how God could use them someday to impact others. We can relate so much better to others when we have been through pain. It makes us more compassionate. We understand better what someone else has been through. Friends, God can use that in our children’s lives to be a light to others in a dark, broken world. And that is something truly beautiful. We do not know what the future holds for us or our kids, but we can be sure that he will redeem us and make “all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)
I never would’ve written this chapter of my life – the chapter where life is hard and I stay exhausted. The chapter where I feel like I fail more often than not. The chapter where chaos reigns and it takes every ounce of my strength to hold everything together. Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever wanted to grab the pen from God and rewrite your story?
Have you been praying for something for a long time, and you still don’t see the answer? Sometimes, I have felt like I’ve prayed continually for wisdom, claiming his promise in James 1, but then I still don’t know what to do. What do we do when God seems silent even after our heartfelt, tear-filled prayers?
First of all, we turn to His word. The 400 years between the end of the Old Testament and the time Christ was born are often called “the silent years”. The prophets wrote about the coming of a Messiah who would save God’s people. However, the Jews kept waiting and waiting and waiting. After a few generations, it must’ve been hard to know if a Messiah was really coming. God seemed silent. However, he had a plan all along. He would send Christ at precisely the right time. The Messiah they waited for did far more than they ever could have imagined. Instead of just freeing them from earthly oppression, he saved them from their sins. He saved their souls.
There are other examples of God’s people waiting. David was anointed king as a teenager, but he didn’t actually become king until he was about 30 years old. During this time, he was often fighting for his life (against the current king Saul). Joseph eventually became second in command to the Pharaoh of Egypt, but about 13 years passed between the time he was sold into slavery until this occurred. Part of this time, he was a slave in Potiphar’s household. Part of this time, he spent in prison for something he did not do.
It had to have seemed like God was silent during these times, but he wasn’t. He clearly had a plan for their lives, and by faith, we trust that He has a plan for our lives too. Simply put, when God seems silent, He’s not. He is simply waiting for the appointed time because his timeline is perfect. There’s a song on the radio currently, and part of the lyrics state, “Even when I don’t see it, you’re working. Even when I can’t feel it, you’re working. You never stop, you never stop working.” God is always working, whether we feel like it or not. This is where faith comes in. We believe in what we cannot see.
Psalm 84:5a and 7a say, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you…they go from strength to strength.” This is a beautiful picture. As God’s children, we will have valleys, but we don’t dwell there. We are just passing through the low spots in life on our way to the next strength.
Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Again, we will have difficult periods in life, but God strengthens us to face these hard times, even when we’re exhausted. Even when we don’t feel it.
2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” When we are going through tough times, our faith is tested. Do we really believe that his grace is sufficient for us? Do we really trust that He will empower us to do what He has called us to do? During these times, we must trust and keep reminding ourselves of these promises. Like the father in Mark 9:24, we must pray and ask God to help our unbelief. If you come to him earnestly, seeking Him, He won’t turn you away. He knows when we’re going through affliction, and He wants to comfort us. He wants to strengthen us, as we depend on Him.
“God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” Habakkuk 3:19
This year has been hard. It’s been full of setbacks, disappointments, and obstacles. People have lost jobs, businesses, or loved ones. At the very least, it’s been full of craziness and uncertainty. For many of us, it was full of challenges and struggles. That’s why the words I came across in Philippians today are so meaningful; Paul wrote them while in prison. He didn’t know how his life would turn out. He didn’t know if he would be executed, yet he wrote about joy and strength.
In Chapter 2, he recounts the story of Christ. Verse 8 ends with the death of Jesus. In the world’s eyes, this was the end of the story. Evil had won. The religious leaders had gotten what they wanted. However, God had another plan. Verse 9 begins with two amazing, impactful words, “Therefore God.” What seemed like the end was really just the beginning. God had a purpose in the death and suffering of Christ – to give him the name above every name and to raise him from the dead. Friends, this is hope for us today and hope for us for the upcoming year. When we feel like life is just hard for a really long time, and it doesn’t seem like things are getting any better, God always has a purpose. At some point in our story, he will write these words into our lives, “Therefore God.”
I don’t know what the new year holds. I pray it’s better than 2020, but what I do know is this – God has a purpose in all of it. God will redeem our pain and what we’ve been through and use it as part of our story to bring glory to himself and to further his kingdom. When things seem difficult, know that God will strengthen you. In Philippians 2:13, we are reminded that “it is God who works in you”, and the best reminder of all is in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Father, please strengthen us for whatever this new year holds. I pray it’s better and less chaotic than this year. Whatever comes, I pray you would help us persevere and rely on you and trust in your plan, no matter what. I pray that you would be glorified in our lives and work all things for good. In the name of your Son we pray, Amen.
Friends, I feel tired all the time. Sometimes, it’s just a little fatigued. Other times, I can barely get my kids to bed before I crash. I’ve wondered, “Am I just a low energy person? Why am I so tired all the time?” Then, it occurred to me. I’m not just taking care of four little (or not so little) people. I’m fighting a war – a battle for their souls.
Paul frequently refers to the Christian life as a fight. In fact, he tells the Ephesians to put on the armor of God daily in order to fight the schemes of the devil. Peter says that our adversary “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8b) We’re exhausted because we are fighting for our children’s souls every single day. We pray with them and for them. We do Bible study with them. Then, we have to make them be still and quiet while we do Bible study with them. We teach them Scripture. We take them to church. If you homeschool, you also educate your children. If your kids go to school, you help them with their homework. You cook for them. Then, you have to make them eat it while they complain. We remind them to speak kindly and to share. We tell them to make good choices. We tell them to be diligent in all that they do. Each of these is an act of war against the one who wants to derail them, take them out of the fight. Satan doesn’t attack those who are already his.
So what do we do when we’re bone-weary? First of all, sweet friends, “fight the good fight of the faith.” (1 Timothy 6:12a) Next, remember you’re not in the fight alone. God himself fights with us because he loves our children too. In fact, we need to remember that they are his, not our’s. He loans them to us to raise, but ultimately, they come from him and are his; like us, they were bought with the blood of his Son. Even on the hard days, keep telling yourself that God is with you. He still loves you. He’s on your side, even when it doesn’t feel like it. The holidays can be especially hard, but as I’ve said before, don’t trust your feelings. Here’s some tips for getting through this time.
Get plenty of rest.
After your kids go to bed, it’s tempting to stay up and watch TV. Try to resist that urge and get plenty of sleep so you’re not tired and grumpy the following day.
Eat healthy and exercise.
This one is difficult. However, taking care of yourself makes you healthier, less likely to get sick, and you’ll just generally feel better.
You don’t have to do it all.
You don’t have to do all the stuff for Christmas you normally do. Just because you did it last year doesn’t mean you have to do it this year. Don’t wear yourself out trying to do a bunch of crafts with your kids or putting up all your decorations.
Take a break.
Go to the grocery store, and buy some frozen pizzas. Make those for dinner and have a family movie night. You can also just put a movie on for your kids while you eat pizza in bed and watch your own movie. With this one, you don’t have to stand up and cook a normal meal and you don’t have to listen to your kids complain about it.
Go simple and minimal with gifts.
For extended family or friends, just buy one thing or nothing at all, if necessary. This has been a hard year, but it’s been especially hard for single moms. If they can’t understand that, then it’s their problem to deal with.
On the hard days, do something for yourself.
Go buy yourself a new sweater or a new color of nail polish. If you’re feeling extravagant, get someone to watch your kids and go get a massage. Just do a little something to refresh your spirits so you can keep fighting this fight and taking care of all the little people who depend on you.
This season is not forever.
This is one I struggle with. When the hits keep on coming, it’s so hard to believe things will get better. I don’t want to get my hopes up only to have them dashed against the rocks of difficulty. However, without hope, we lose joy. Without joy, we lose strength. Without strength, it’s really hard to fight the war. So keep on hoping.
Take a moment and just breathe deeply. Remember that this season is about the God of the universe, who created you with a special purpose, folding himself into flesh so that he could be Immanuel, God with us. He’s with us today through his Holy Spirit. He will never leave you, and someday, through faith in Christ, we will be with him face-to-face forever.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12
True contentment lies not in liking our circumstances but rather in accepting the life God has given us, trusting that He is good and sovereign and that all seasons of life work for our good. However, this is easier said than done, especially when our life looks nothing like we expected. It is difficult when life is painful and hard. It’s excruciating when we feel like God is silent, distant, and uncaring about our situation. We start believing the enemy’s lies that we are alone, that God isn’t for us, and that things will not get better. We begin losing hope. That is when despair creeps in, depression and loneliness too.
I look at the negative all around me instead of the positive. I see my oldest one pinning down his younger brother for going into his room without knocking. I hear my youngest pulling a fit because he didn’t get his way. I feel like banging my head on the wall because a certain child still forgets some of her sight words when she’s reading. I listen to the enemy’s lies that I’m not good enough. I feel like a failure. Maybe you have too. I tell God that he overestimated my abilities to parent my children and to do this life he handed me.
How do we change this? By looking to the cross. Jesus displays the best, most submissive example of acceptance. The night before he was crucified, he begged God, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39b) Jesus asked God to change his circumstances, but he trusted God, no matter the outcome. Friends, that is what we must do. We pray and ask God to relieve our pain and to make life better, but we trust Him even if he doesn’t.
This brings to my mind the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They acknowledged that God could save them from the fiery furnace, but they diligently trusted God even if He didn’t. (Daniel 3) What would this look like for us? It means trusting God even when we don’t know how our story ends. It means choosing to find the joy in today rather than hoping you will find it in the future. We resolve to praise God for the things that are going right in our life rather than dwelling on what is not. Do not listen to the voices of criticism in your head or from others. Listen to the words and promises God declares over you.
He will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
He chose you before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4)
He has a plan for you. (Jeremiah 29:11)
He will not leave you or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
You are precious in his eyes, and honored, and He loves you. (Isaiah 43:4)
When life is hard and not what we wanted, we must choose daily (and sometimes minute by minute) to not give in to the voice of the evil one but rather preach truth to our heart from the heart of God as displayed in his living and active Word.
I have a little wooden sign in my living room that says, “God is faithful in every season.” He is good in all seasons of life, not just the good ones. We trust that He is doing something in our lives, even in the winters, and we know that no suffering is without purpose in the plan of God.